updated 3/16/2005 12:06:27 PM ET 2005-03-16T17:06:27

Guest: Clint Eastwood

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  From “Dirty Harry” to “Million Dollar Baby”‘s Frankie Dunn, he‘s a Hollywood legend and an American icon.  Tonight, Clint Eastwood.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

               

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  And we‘re here in Carmel, California, with the biggest man in Hollywood, the winner of this year‘s Academy Awards for best director and best picture, Clint Eastwood. 

Thanks for joining us, Clint.

CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR/DIRECTOR:  It‘s my pleasure.

MATTHEWS:  And I want to you to now look at some highlights, a glimpse of your great career. 

EASTWOOD:  All righty. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MILLION DOLLAR BABY”) 

HILARY SWANK, ACTRESS:  I seen you looking at me. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes, out of pity. 

SWANK:  Don‘t you say that.  Don‘t you say that if it ain‘t true. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  There was an unexpected knockout at this year‘s Academy Awards. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MILLION DOLLAR BABY”)

EASTWOOD:  Don‘t need to be training fighters at my age. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And the film delivering the blow was a movie that no studio wanted to make, “Million Dollar Baby,” the gut-wrenching tale of three lost souls looking for a second chance at life, brought to the screen by the legendary filmmaker Clint Eastwood.  We all know Clint Eastwood as an actor. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “DIRTY HARRY”)

EASTWOOD:  Go ahead.  Make my day. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  With that whisper of a voice and those steely eyes that have stared down the most infamous of movie villains, from spaghetti westerns to “Dirty Harry.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “DIRTY HARRY”)

EASTWOOD:  You‘ve got ask yourself a question.  Do I feel lucky? 

Well, do you, punk? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  To his role as reluctant boxing trainer Frankie Dunn in “Million Dollar Baby.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MILLION DOLLAR BABY”)

EASTWOOD:  I don‘t train girls. 

SWANK:  Maybe you should.  People who have seen me fight say I‘m pretty tough. 

EASTWOOD:  Girly tough ain‘t enough. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Eastwood has created a sterling body of work, but that‘s only half of it.  Eastwood been directing films for the last 35 years.  And with the one-two punch of “Mystic River” and “Million Dollar Baby,” he has cemented a reputation as a master of masterpieces, movies that delve into the complexity of human emotion, movies that make you think, make you laugh, and sometimes break your heart. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MILLION DOLLAR BABY”)

SWANK:  I got nobody but you, Frankie.

EASTWOOD:  Then you‘ve got me. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Long after the credits of a Clint Eastwood film roll, you can be certain that a character or a scene or an image will linger in your memory.  And it‘s for that reason that, at age 74, with four Oscars and a Kennedy Center honor to his name, Clint Eastwood is not just a Hollywood star.  He is an American icon.  He is the John Wayne of our time.  With each film he makes, he brings an unwavering strength to the silver screen and continues to remind us that, at this stage of his career, he‘s not getting older.  He‘s getting better. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s great to be here, Clint.  It‘s all true. 

(CROSSTALK)

EASTWOOD:  Good to have you here.

MATTHEWS:  I wrote that stuff. 

EASTWOOD:  You wrote that stuff? 

MATTHEWS:  And it‘s all true. 

EASTWOOD:  Well, it‘s a good job, I must say.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, well, thank you.

Look, I want to talk to you about Clint Eastwood.  And I imagine that you can sometimes step back from who you seem to be to the whole world.  I mean the whole world, this iconic American, this maverick.  Do American people still love the maverick? 

EASTWOOD:  Yes, I think so.  I think so. 

I think there‘s a sort of mystery about the maverick, the individual, the individual who is not afraid to kind of be an individual in an era of which that is sort of outmoded or doesn‘t seem to be fashionable in any way, shape or form. 

MATTHEWS:  Dirty Harry was a cop who wanted to get the bad guys.  He didn‘t want to obey the superior officers.  Is that the American, who wants to get the job done and doesn‘t just want to be an obedient servant? 

EASTWOOD:  Well, I think he—I think Americans don‘t want to just go outside the law that much. 

But I think, in that case, there was a certain frustration about all the various laws, this obsession with the accused and no obsession at that time, the victim.  Since that time, of course, there have been victims‘ rights groups and all kinds of interest in that.  But, at that particular time, most movies were everything about the accused, whether somebody is falsely accused or accused, what have you, and what is the defense there. 

It is a little different.  Now it is a little more balanced. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think we have a just society?  Does the bad guy get caught enough? 

EASTWOOD:  I don‘t think so, not in real life.  But I think they do occasionally.  A lot of them make stupid mistakes.  But they eventually get caught.  But the big problem is, is, getting them caught before they do too much damage to good citizens. 

MATTHEWS:  When a cop is trying to do his job and bring the bad guy in, he collars him, makes the arrest, gets him in the can, are we sure today that he is going to get punished? 

EASTWOOD:  Chances are there‘s some lawyer out there who is willing to go on a contingency and get him off. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  So Dirty Harry lives in your heart. 

EASTWOOD:  Well, I think, yes, I guess I have a touch of cynicism about it. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

EASTWOOD:  Because you see it happen.  At least that‘s the stuff that gets publicized.  Now, there‘s a lot of times that—and I think police officers get frustrated because they go through all this risk to make an arrest and then somebody walks away from them.  And I can see where that would bother them. 

MATTHEWS:  How did it strike you when you read the paper last week and saw on the TV about this judge, as the one judge gets a husband killed, her mother killed, her aged mother killed by one of the people that she found against in a civil case.  The other judge gets killed right in the courtroom.  The court stenographer gets killed.  What do you think, that people don‘t respect authority at all anymore, the good kind of authority? 

EASTWOOD:  You know, I don‘t know. 

It is a terrible thing.  But there‘s just a lot of screwballs out there.  I‘ve often pondered that thing for years.  Is this a group that is left over from the ‘60s and they‘ve done too much dope or what the hell is it?  I can‘t understand what it is.  But it seems like we have just got a lot of screwballs floating around out there.  And it‘s a shame about that judge.  And, of course, both those people, they were just doing their job and trying to protect society.  And there they—there they get it. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about “Million Dollar Baby.”  I loved the movie.  And a lot of people did, obviously.  It won the Academy Award.  Was that an upset at the end, winning?  Do you think “Aviator...”

EASTWOOD:  I‘m not sure it was an upset at all.  I think the press tried to make a thing between Marty and myself, two senior guys going at it. 

But I‘m not sure what it was.  I know a lot of people seem to like “Aviator.”  And a lot of people seemed to like “Million Dollar Baby.”  Obviously, we prevailed there, so that was fine by me.  But I have great respect for Marty, because he‘s done a lot of fine pictures over the years.  And I‘m sure he‘s going to do a lot of fine pictures in the future. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I go to everything.  And I was just struck by “Aviator” being the big studio picture, a cast of thousands, lots of money spent and Hollywood—sort of focused on Hollywood.  And you did this small picture in 37 days.  And it could have almost been an indy. 

EASTWOOD:  Well, it was kind of an indy. 

It was partly done independent and partly the studio, with some reticence.  But they came around and once they saw the picture, they liked it.  And they supported the picture.  But it was—what we did is, is, we didn‘t have a lot of publicity or hoopla coming out.  I figured the same sort of system we did with “Mystic River” is, we had to let the picture have a life of its own.  You can sit there and beat on a picture forever.  But if it doesn‘t deliver the goods, it‘s not going to get you anywhere.  Eventually, you‘re going to fade out.  With us, we fortunately had the goods to go on.  And the picture took on a life of its own. 

MATTHEWS:  The word of mouth. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I thought.  Everybody liked it. 

(CROSSTALK)

EASTWOOD:  Yes, the word of mouth.  The reviewers, by and large, most of the reviewers liked it.  And the public seemed to like it.  There‘s always probably somebody out there who doesn‘t like it, or say, why couldn‘t it have been this or why couldn‘t it have had a happy ending?

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

EASTWOOD:  But, basically, I think it moved people. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the decision that the main character made, without giving away the story, because I think people ought to see the damn movie.  It‘s a great movie. 

But what about Frankie Dunn, your character, the trainer.  He seemed like a lot of the characters you have played over your life, a loner, a maverick, a guy who sort of tried to live by the rules, but, in the end, had to make up his own or had to deal with the new realities of life he confronted. 

EASTWOOD:  Well, I‘ve always been attracted to characters that have some sort of disappointment in their life.  Something hasn‘t quite gone the way they would have liked it. 

And that makes for an interesting obstacle, obstacle within yourself, as well as whatever the obstacles the story put up before you.  So, Frankie Dunn is a guy who has had some success.  But because he‘s so conservative in some areas, he didn‘t make the right moves as far as training fighters.  And now he‘s stuck training a woman.  He doesn‘t believe in woman fighters. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

EASTWOOD:  He doesn‘t think that‘s the right thing to do.  But circumstances just drive the thing away.  Fate just kind of drives it that way. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do we Americans love the loner, the guy that comes out of nowhere, like “Shane” or the man with no name in all your pictures or “The Searchers,” John Wayne?  He comes from somewhere bad.  Something went wrong in his life.

And then, after he‘s done the heroic thing, in this case make the decision about this young woman‘s life, he then disappears.  He almost goes into exile.  What is it about our heroes that they have to go away?  They have to be flawed? 

EASTWOOD:  I don‘t know.  I think it‘s—not everyone goes away.  But a lot of them do, because I think there‘s something more mysterious about it when it goes on, whether it‘s “Shane.”  I‘ll use that as an example, because it‘s—that was in my younger generation, seeing that.

But he goes.  He drifts off.  You don‘t know whether he lives or dies. 

He is wounded, et cetera. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

EASTWOOD:  And I think people are—they like to draw in that last scene.  And I‘ve tried to do that in a lot of pictures, where you don‘t know where he goes.  “Unforgiven,” you don‘t know where he goes off.  You just—there‘s rumors he went somewhere, but that‘s as far as it goes. 

And the same thing with Frankie Dunn.  You know, Frankie Dunn has been through a lot.  A lot of people think, well, maybe he went and committed suicide.  And maybe did he this.  Or who knows what he did?  But we don‘t - - we‘re not—it is whatever you want to think it is. 

MATTHEWS:  I want to think he bought that little shack of a restaurant where she used to hang out, because he was carrying the torch for her. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes.  I mean, that‘s fine.  That‘s great. 

MATTHEWS:  How about at the end of “Mystic River,” when Kevin Bacon goes like this to Sean Penn?  Does he mean, I‘m going to get you, or, for old times‘ sake, you‘re off?  He goes like this.

EASTWOOD:  Well, what do you think? 

MATTHEWS:  I think he was going to let him off, and I was ticked, because I wanted Sean Penn dead.  I was so mad at him for killing Tim Robbins. 

EASTWOOD:  Well, it‘s whatever ending you like is fine. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I paid for the popcorn.  I get my ending. 

EASTWOOD:  You get your ending.  And a lot of people say, I‘m going to get you.  It‘s your comeuppance, or I know and you know.  And we have this secret together. 

MATTHEWS:  I asked Kevin at the Democratic Convention.  I said, what was he meant to do?  Does he said I‘m going to get you or I‘m not going to get you because we‘re old pals?  He said another ambiguous comment.  He said, I can‘t tell you. 

EASTWOOD:  It ruins the sequel. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, he meant like—I thought he meant he couldn‘t tell because he didn‘t want to or he didn‘t know.  You never told him.

EASTWOOD:  You know, I just tell them, that‘s—it‘s there or that‘s what it is. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

EASTWOOD:  That‘s what it is.  But I love the audience to think along with you. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, we‘re thinking. 

We‘re back with Clint Eastwood about the role...

EASTWOOD:  Well, we‘re thinking.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about something really controversial, the role of women in his movies and American life.  We‘ll talk about Hilary Swank and Hillary Clinton.  Got the connection? 

We‘re here.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be back with Academy Award winner Clint Eastwood.

And, tomorrow, two HARDBALL exclusives, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom on the fight over gay marriage.  And that guy who secretly taped George W. Bush, Doug Wead, he‘s coming to HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to the Mission Ranch in Carmel, California. 

We‘re here with Academy Award-winning director and actor Clint Eastwood. 

Let‘s talk about girls.  Let‘s talk about women in your movies and talk about them in American life, Hillary Clinton, for example, just for example,.  Your movies are interesting, because—I was talking to my wife about them the other night.  I got her to watch “Dirty Harry,” because we were going to do this with you.  And then we watched—let‘s see—we watched “Play Misty For Me.” 

Some of the women in your early movies were either sort of like victims or frightened.  Jessica Walter is this frightening, needy woman who has to almost kill you if she can‘t get you.  And then the progression to Rene Russo in “In the Line of Fire,” a great professional, attractive woman.  And then the ultimate progression, you‘ve got a woman as your hero, Hilary Swank.  Are you changing? 

EASTWOOD:  Well, I think so. 

I think I‘m changing.  For instance, in “In the Line of Fire,” the woman is—he‘s the older, senior guy and she‘s the young officer who is advancing.  And so they‘re a little out of kilter.  And “Play Misty, where it is another generation.  And he is a guy who is out catting around and it comes back to bite him, if you don‘t mind me saying...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Because this woman was crazed.  This woman was insane, wasn‘t she? 

(LAUGHTER)

EASTWOOD:  Yes, she was insane, obviously.  It was one of those deals where people get this idea of commitment.  They think that one conversation  they‘re...

MATTHEWS:  A roll in the hay means a life commitment. 

EASTWOOD:  Right.  It means a life of commitment.

MATTHEWS:  And if you don‘t give it, I‘m going to kill you. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes.  Exactly.  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  You made it look like she‘s a black widow. 

EASTWOOD:  Well, she was great.  At that particular time in history, that was 1970.  A lot of people thought that was impressive to women, because everybody was in the women‘s movement. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

EASTWOOD:  And they were all saying.  But I was just trying to get parts where women had a good role, not the little girl next door who is just hanging out.  I wanted to see some real meaty roles, like they used to have with Joan Crawford and Bette Davis and Ingrid Bergman, you know, all those gals that had a lot of zap to them.

MATTHEWS:  Somebody told me the difference between a good movie and a bad movie, or a horror flick, is when—a bad horror flick is when the guy has to save the girl and she‘s helpless.  A good horror flick is when she helps save herself. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about Hilary Swank.  How did you adjust to the idea of a woman boxer? 

EASTWOOD:  Well, I‘m not one of those guys that thinks that boxing is probably a normal profession for a woman.  But I have known women boxers.  I‘ve talked to a few of them.  And they want to do it.  If somebody wants to do something, they should do it. 

MATTHEWS:  Didn‘t you think it was a joke, like Muhammad Ali‘s fighting Joe Frazier‘s daughter?  What a hype.

EASTWOOD:  Yes, maybe.  I didn‘t see the fight, but I‘ve met Laila Ali.  And she is a good fighter.  She is a good boxer. 

MATTHEWS:  By male standards? 

EASTWOOD:  Well, by female standards. 

I don‘t know—she‘s not going to—it‘s like Lucia Rijker, who was in “Million Dollar Baby,” she‘s the real deal, too.  But you wouldn‘t want to try to carjack her on Sunset Boulevard, and pull her out of the car.  I mean, would you run into a windmill. 

MATTHEWS:  She is the East German, right?

EASTWOOD:  It would tough.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I love the way you guys used the anachronism East German. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s just German. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  But you say East German, like in the movie.  What was that about?

EASTWOOD:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Because you always thought of them as maybe males.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... women.

EASTWOOD:  They‘re old guys.  They haven‘t quite caught up. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, isn‘t that the old joke, that you always thought the Olympic women from East Germany were really guys? 

EASTWOOD:  Well, they thought—they thought they were taking steroids long before they were fashionable. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

Let me ask you, is this country ready for a woman president? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are guys ready? 

EASTWOOD:  I have no idea.  Could be.  If the right woman came along, I‘m sure they could.

MATTHEWS:  How about a big liberal Democrat from New York?

EASTWOOD:  I don‘t know.

MATTHEWS:  Or Illinois or Arkansas, wherever? 

EASTWOOD:  Wherever. 

(LAUGHTER)

EASTWOOD:  I don‘t know about a liberal.  I think it would have to be a more moderate.  I think the one you‘re referring to is probably—is trying to make signs like she‘s moving towards the center. 

MATTHEWS:  You buy it? 

EASTWOOD:  So, obviously, that‘s—well, I don‘t know.  But it is obvious that that is—that she‘s setting up for something. 

Then I watched a couple of the other candidates on—the Democrats—talking the other night, and they all seem to be setting up.  So there‘s a lot of posturing going on for the next four years. 

MATTHEWS:  But do you think, when men get in that voting booth, they‘re going to vote for her or any woman?  How about her?

EASTWOOD:  I‘m not sure.  I can‘t speak for anybody—anyone else.  I think, if they like her, if they believe what she says.  And it depends on who she is running against.  If she is running against someone that they don‘t believe in, I think it could happen.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think she‘s going to run? 

EASTWOOD:  She‘s making all the right sounds like she‘s going to run.  But who knows?  She probably hasn‘t decided.  She‘ll probably decide a couple years from now. 

MATTHEWS:  Interesting.

Anyway, we‘re going to come back and talk about you growing up.  I read something the other day about you saving your own life after your plane crashed when you were in the military.  You had to three swim miles to save your life.  We‘ll talk about that when we come back, because I want to talk about rites of passage and how men—maybe women now today, too—have to go through some kind of experience in their 20s to really grow up. 

We‘ll be right with HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Clint Eastwood.

Let‘s talk real life.  I‘ve read that you had to save yourself.  You had to swim three miles after your plane crashed as a serviceman? 

EASTWOOD:  Well, yes.  I took—I hopped a flight on a plane in 1951, when I was in the Army.  It was a Navy plane, but you could wear your uniform and get on. 

And we went down off Drake‘s Bay, Point Reyes, California.  And so that became a little—that became a little disconcerting.  But, anyway, sometimes, you need something like that to kind of wake you up and make you appreciate—it kept me out of going overseas.  So, it introduced me to this area, because I got to stay for the full two years I was in. 

MATTHEWS:  But you swam three miles from the plane wreck. 

EASTWOOD:  Well, I don‘t know what the exact mileage was, but it was considerable. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about sort of the iconic American hero.  He always seems to go through some sort kind of event like that, whether it‘s Hemingway getting shot when he was driving the—the—the car—what do you call them, the ambulances in Italy, or Churchill gets captured by the Boers.  Those things seem important in American history for the hero to rise.  Do you think that‘s true? 

EASTWOOD:  Well, I don‘t know if... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  A rite of passage, it‘s called. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes. 

I‘m sure it makes you wonder—it makes you wonder, if you escape one event and you come out unscathed, you kind of figure, well, look, I‘ve got a little angel riding on my shoulder, at least for that moment.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Did you feel that in your early career, that you‘d... 

(CROSSTALK)

EASTWOOD:  Yes, I did.  I felt that somebody was helping me out. 

But—and then where did I end up here?  I end up—you end up through a series of circumstances.  A lot of it—some of it is hard work and some of it is a lot of luck. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think about the—about the—let me ask you about John Huston.  I got to ask you about John Huston.  You did that wonderful movie about him, about Africa, making of “The African Queen.”

EASTWOOD:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Why is he your hero?  Why did you make such an effort to pay such a great tribute to that guy? 

EASTWOOD:  Well, I liked his movies.  I thought he was terrific.  I grew up on his movies, “The Maltese Falcon,” “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” all these. 

MATTHEWS:  They‘re great.

EASTWOOD:  And he is also one of those directors that I feel more of a kinship to now as I get older, because he managed to direct films up into his 80. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

EASTWOOD:  And do it well, you know?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He was asked by Dick Cavett one time on his show, frankly, on his—he was on the oxygen and everything. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  He was in terrible shape.  He was still smoking, I guess.  And Cavett said something.  The guy is like beyond a sex life, beyond even enjoying food or booze anymore.  He‘s so—bad shape.  And Cavett said, what do you live for?  And he said interests. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes, well, maybe so.

MATTHEWS:  Is that with you, interests, something you get interested in?

(CROSSTALK)

EASTWOOD:  From “African Queen,” he went up to Paris and did “Moulin Rouge.”  And so he—obviously, now, when you study his character, you wonder, did he go up there because “Moulin Rouge” was a good script and an interesting story or because he was so sick of Africa, he wanted to be in Paris and having a good time? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

EASTWOOD:  So you just never know.  But he was one of the guys who seemed to enjoy himself and pick good material at the same time. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  He did “Man Who Would Be King” late in his career. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Fabulous movie.

EASTWOOD:  Oh, yes, that was fabulous.  Yes.  And then he ended up with “The Dead,” I think was his last movie.  And he did that on oxygen and everything else.  And it‘s a good movie.

MATTHEWS:  But he had a lifestyle, too.  He didn‘t seem to have enough money to live by the lifestyle he had.  He had his house in Ireland. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  He had horses he ran. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes.   

MATTHEWS:  Is he your hero? 

EASTWOOD:  Yes, well—no, because I‘m not like that at all. 

But I have—he is one of those guys that, when he did “Misfits,” he was—he would go to the gambling tables all evening and spend a lot of time. 

MATTHEWS:  Marilyn Monroe.

EASTWOOD:  Yes, with Marilyn.  And then, in the daytime, he would have to put up with all the shenanigans on that particular show. 

MATTHEWS:  Marilyn Monroe.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, I‘m going to ask Clint Eastwood about the war in Iraq, serious questions coming up on HARDBALL.

You‘re watching it, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re here in Carmel, California, with Academy Award-winning director and actor Clint Eastwood. 

It‘s great talking to you.  It‘s great being out here.  I want the big picture now from Clint Eastwood.  Is the country going in the right direction or the wrong direction right now, your kind of America? 

EASTWOOD:  I don‘t know.  I think what we‘re doing is, we‘re in a position where we‘re kind of doing on-the-job learning.  And we‘re in a kind of a war that we‘ve never fought before, this particular type.  And we‘re wondering if the resolve is the same, because we live in a big information age that we‘re in right now. 

There‘s so much information out there that people get, the audiences -

·         audiences—I‘m still thinking in terms of movies—but the public gets impatient.  They want things to happen immediately.  And things just don‘t always go that way.

MATTHEWS:  The most popular movie ever made in America was probably “Casablanca,” where Bogart plays this saloon keeper who really doesn‘t want to fight until he has to.

EASTWOOD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  The reluctant warrior is a pretty common them in America about war.  Do you think we‘ve lost some of that reluctance?  And therefore -- do you think this going into Iraq was a smart move? 

EASTWOOD:  Well, I was never one those who was enthusiastic about rushing right in there. 

But I do believe—I do believe that, probably, someday in the future, preventative strikes are going to be the only option.  But, at this particular time, I didn‘t think—I wasn‘t for it.  But once the troops got in there, I sure as hell was not going to be somebody who went around and disturbed things, because we‘re risking lives of our people.  And I don‘t—and I‘m for our people all the way.

MATTHEWS:  How do we get out of there and have things better than when we went there?  

EASTWOOD:  I don‘t know how we get out of there.  I think the best thing—my druthers would have been to go in there, hire all the Republican Guard, pay them twice what they were getting before and have them—and start—and train them up. 

But, evidently, they‘re doing that.  But now—but it is just a little later. 

MATTHEWS:  What about here at home?  Do you think this country has moved too much government?  When you hear the word government, are you happy with it? 

EASTWOOD:  No, no.  I have always been a small-government person.

I think a good way is really screw something up is to get the government involved.  It‘s just too large.  It‘s too clumsy.  It‘s too bureaucratic.  It doesn‘t move smoothly.  I do believe in the energy and the productivity of the American business world.  And I think that‘s the way to get things done.  That‘s what built the country.  I think what is what will continue to build it. 

MATTHEWS:  A good part of this, it seems to me, is still—pretty libertarian.  In other words, we have pretty lenient gun laws.  You can own a gun in this country.  You can carry a gun or you can keep one.  Abortion rights, basically, people sort of accept that.  They don‘t like it, but they leave it up to the individual.  Do you think that‘s—do you think that‘s true?

EASTWOOD:  Yes, I think that‘s true.

I think those are sort of libertarian.  And I think—sometimes, I kind of—I kind of include myself in that group, because they do have the things that the Republicans stood for years ago and don‘t so much anymore.  And then, of course, the liberals aren‘t on the liberal side.  Liberals are not always so liberal with people who disapprove—disapprove of their point of view. 

MATTHEWS:  But Bush isn‘t exactly a libertarian, is he?  He‘s getting involved with tort reform.  He‘s getting involved with...

EASTWOOD:  Yes, well...

MATTHEWS:  You can‘t sure for a lot of money.  He‘s getting involved with religious-based programming and prescription drugs are free and setting education standards around the country. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes, he is. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s not really a conservative—conservative, is it?

EASTWOOD:  No, it isn‘t.

But it‘s—those are things I think that are pretty good.  Some of them are, anyway.  And but it‘s just that we can‘t fight everybody in the world and we can‘t be the world police force.  And, unfortunately, we‘re dealing with a U.N. that is sort of ineffectual, for the most part.  And so, we haven‘t really figured out which way to go. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think—as a libertarian, what do you think of this gay marriage issue that has come to a fore this week with that court decision in San Francisco?  Is that a libertarian thing, that people want to get married and they‘re the same sex?  Or is it invading our lives by telling us, or straight people, that we have to approve, officially approve of these relationships?  Where do you come on that?

EASTWOOD:  You know, I don‘t—I‘ve never—I always figure, you let people do what they want to do.  I‘m not one of the guys who wants to dictate...

MATTHEWS:  Suppose they want a marriage license. 

EASTWOOD:  Well, you know, if they want a marriage license...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s tough, huh? 

EASTWOOD:  It is a rough one, because you think in terms of traditional things that our mothers and fathers grew and their mothers and fathers before them and how they—they worked under that. 

But who am I to be the judge of all that?  I don‘t—I don‘t know if I—I don‘t know if I disapprove of that.  I just don‘t—it‘s very complicated in our society, because our society, as you mentioned earlier - - you were talking about the judges and the tragedy that happened back there, there‘s just a lot of—a lot of instability going on. 

MATTHEWS:  You know what I liked about “Million Dollar Baby,” is the fact that it was complicated for your character, the hero.  Tell us, if you can, without giving it away, because you like us to have some mystery about these plot points and what they mean, but you‘re a guy going to church every day. 

You‘re a guy who couldn‘t, for some reason, have a good relationship with his own daughter, a guy who has to make a big decision about the life or death of this person he loves, can‘t get much advice from the church or the law, doesn‘t confide in anybody, really, doesn‘t trust her family.  He‘s sort of stuck out there alone in making this moral—not even a moral decision.  It‘s sort of a love decision.  How is that?  He‘s a character.

EASTWOOD:  I think that‘s what made—for me, that‘s what made the character interesting, is, he had all that dilemma. 

He starts right off with sort of a—not love-hate, but, obviously, he is a man who is obsessed with going to his own church, but yet he has got a somewhat antagonistic relationship with it.  But yet, at the end, he finally has to go back to and get counsel from his priest and somebody that he has been kind of ribbing all through the picture. 

MATTHEWS:  That priest let him down, I thought.  He didn‘t give him a deep thought.  He gave him sort of a doctrinal answer without any... 

EASTWOOD:  Yes, I know.  But, unfortunately, that‘s kind of probably the answer they have to give. 

They have—the church has sort their sort of philosophies on that sort of thing.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

EASTWOOD:  And there‘s no give-and-take on that. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

Did you feel in your character did what he wanted to do or what he had to do?  It seemed like the guy doesn‘t—what I really liked is—and people can argue about this—your character said, I‘m going to help this girl.  I‘m going to make her have another kind of life than she has now.  I‘m going to get her back to college, or get her to college.  I can see a future for her even in her condition. 

And you were struggling to find that for her and thinking about it, devoting your life to it. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  But that wasn‘t how it was going to have to happen. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes.  I think he tried everything he could think of in his mind.  And then he made a decision.  I don‘t know, in real life, if that‘s a decision I would make or I could make.  But, at least within the story, the way ethics, Toole laid it out in his book, it seemed like the decision of that moment. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think people are so bothered by this?  People on the cultural right feel they have to take you on, on this movie, when we‘re used to movies—I was saying this the other day.  “Gone With the Wind” doesn‘t mean you‘re for slavery.  Everybody loves “The Godfather.”  It doesn‘t mean you‘re for organized crime. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes.  That‘s true.

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t—why do people get hung up on this, do you think? 

EASTWOOD:  Well, I just—I don‘t know.  Every once in a while, you get—for some reason, it was always the knee-jerk liberal.  Now it‘s the knee-jerk conservative.  You get somebody who decides he‘s going to—we‘re saying a message, sending out the message.

MATTHEWS:  Is this high-paying piety that is going on here?

EASTWOOD:  It may be, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

EASTWOOD:  I think so. 

Yes, I don‘t think there‘s—there‘s—everybody has the answer.  But—and everybody wants to politicize everything.  I don‘t politicize things.  I just do for—thing of the moment.  I wasn‘t making a statement in any picture that is the final end-all.  It is just a way of going. 

MATTHEWS:  And you‘re happy with that guy, though, you played? 

EASTWOOD:  Yes, I‘m happy with it.  I‘m happy with him.  In real life

·         there‘s nothing he could do.  Fate was running against him.  He was running an uphill battle.  And there was nothing else he could do. 

He could turn around and do what he was recommended to do.  He could say, just do nothing.  Leave it in the hands of a higher authority.  But, on the other hand, you had the dilemma.  And so, to overcome that, he had to just follow whatever his instincts were at that time. 

MATTHEWS:  More with Clint Eastwood when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be back with Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood from here at the Mission Ranch in Carmel, California.

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Clint Eastwood.  This is a real treat.

Let me ask you, you got involved with politics.  You should of dipped your toe in a couple years back.  You ran for mayor of Carmel.  Why not the next step?  Congress?  Senate?  Governor?  President? 

EASTWOOD:  No thanks. 

(LAUGHTER)

EASTWOOD:  About halfway through the term, which was a year and a half, because it was a two-year term, I realized that I missed doing pictures.  I had done a couple pictures while I was in office, but I missed doing pictures, and I wanted to get back to that. 

And also what we were talking about earlier, with the government bureaucracies and—it is a tough—it takes a certain type of person to kind of live in that world. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re too much of a maverick. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes, I think so.  And I like to get things done.  And it is very difficult to get things done in politics. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of Arnold?  He comes out of your profession, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  He got elected in the recall.  He‘s doing decently well in the opinion polls.  He‘s talking on the establishment.

EASTWOOD:  Yes, I think he‘s doing good.  I think he is doing very well.  He‘s gotten an advantage over most politicians.  He doesn‘t need the job.  He‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Because he‘s rich. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes.  And he‘s got a career.  He can always go back to doing films.  But he‘s—so he‘s trying different things.  He‘s trying to shake it up.  And God knows we needed it.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he‘ll make it? 

EASTWOOD:  I think so.  I hope so. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you going to vote for him next time if he runs again? 

EASTWOOD:  Sure.   

MATTHEWS:  Did you vote for him last time? 

EASTWOOD:  Yes.  

MATTHEWS:  Did you really?

EASTWOOD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  God.

Let me ask you about Warren Beatty.  You‘re getting serious now.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Warren Beatty.  What is this thing with him taking shots at the governor? 

EASTWOOD:  I didn‘t—I don‘t know too much...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He called him—he said he was working for K Street lobbyists in Washington.  He‘s working for Wall Street.  He‘s out there shaking the tin cup, raising money.  He‘s working with the bad guys, the way Warren Beatty portrayed it. 

EASTWOOD:  Well, you know, I like Warren.  He‘s a very clever guy, a very amusing guy.  But I‘m not sure where he gets all his information.  He is probably not sure where I get my information.  But I don‘t know.  I have never heard any of these things.

MATTHEWS:  Is there a resentment in Hollywood against guys who move to the conservative side of things politically? 

EASTWOOD:  Well, let‘s face it, they are the minority.  And if you like being part of a minority group, then you become—you be a conservative in Hollywood.  So, that works well. 

MATTHEWS:  But people accept your sort of libertarianism, don‘t they? 

EASTWOOD:  I think so. 

(CROSSTALK)

EASTWOOD:  Yes, because—I think they do.  They would probably rather have—I‘ve just never been on the left side.  But most self-made people aren‘t.  But then sometimes people are.  You get idealistic.  Everybody is idealistic when you‘re a kid.  That‘s the way...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But why is Hollywood so left publicly?  Why does it seem left?

EASTWOOD:  I don‘t know.  It just seems like there‘s a lot of people on the left that are there.

But it doesn‘t bother me because of my libertarian point of views.  I just feel everybody do what they want to, do as long as they don‘t affect me. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, it‘s like you and Bruce Willis and Schwarzenegger get the—I guess because you are the characters you play, in a way.  You‘re independent guys, or libertarian guys you play in the movies and it seems right that you would be them.

EASTWOOD:  I like that sort of thing.  So, you gravitate towards what you like, yes. 

But it‘s—I don‘t know about Hollywood.  It‘s just always been kind of that way.  And why?  I couldn‘t tell you.

MATTHEWS:  Do you like Bush? 

EASTWOOD:  You know, I like certain things. 

I like—I like him personally.  I think he is a really nice guy.  And I like some of the things he‘s doing, some of the things you mentioned earlier, the tort reform and some of these things that need to be addressed desperately in this country in order to make—keep the country viable for and viable businesses and what have you.  But some of the stuff, I‘m not sure about.  I don‘t agree with everything.  I agree with some of it. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You are going to buy the blue-plate special, right? 

EASTWOOD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  You got to take the whole thing when it comes.

EASTWOOD:  Yes.  Exactly.  You got to...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

EASTWOOD:  That‘s it.  You‘re in for a penny, in for a pound. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be back with Clint Eastwood when we return.  One more break with him.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Clint Eastwood. 

We were just talking now about your travels when you don‘t have to make movies.  And what is it like to go to places like Zimbabwe and they know you? 

(LAUGHTER)

EASTWOOD:  Yes. 

Well, after a certain amount of years, films get everywhere.  They go places.  I think, back when Zimbabwe was Rhodesia, we had “Rawhide” down there.  I think that was...

MATTHEWS:  That was during the embargo period.

EASTWOOD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Because I remember seeing “Somebody Up There Likes You” (sic), the Paul Newman movie, about four years after it was made. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Because they could only buy the old movies. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  But what you feel like, that responsibility you have?  I don‘t want to get too deep here, but I remember going through Cairo once and the kid says, do you know John Wayne?  They know you guys.  The kids in the streets know you. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes, eventually, they catch up to the movies.  They may be

·         what did you 30 years ago may be a new movie down there.  You never know. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it is good, our image we got out there, the violence, the gun fighting, whatever, sex?

EASTWOOD:  I don‘t know.  Some of it probably is and some of it isn‘t.  We grew up watching Humphrey Bogart or Jimmy Cagney and they were shooting people.  Nobody duplicated that from film. 

MATTHEWS:  You mean they get it.  They understand it‘s a movie.

EASTWOOD:  Yes.  Everybody gets it.  Everybody gets it.  I guess, if you played it—a sick mind, then you wouldn‘t—you wouldn‘t play anything. 

MATTHEWS:  One of the nice things about the movie—maybe because I‘m Irish-American—was “Million Dollar Baby,” again, a fabulous movie.  And one part—the lilt that came or the emotions that came when you‘re bringing this girl you brought up to the big money. 

You‘re bringing her up to the big money and you want to have her go for the British title and—as a woman boxer, and you take her into this kind of smoky British arena and all these Irish ladies around, too much makeup on, too many cigarettes, probably too much beer. 

And they see the robe you put on. your boxer and it is in Gaelic.  And they go nuts.  What did it say?  

EASTWOOD:  Mo chuisle.

MATTHEWS:  And what does that mean in English? 

EASTWOOD:  In Gaelic, it means my darling, my blood.  But that was—that was indicative.  That was in the story. 

MATTHEWS:  And that thing grabbed those women.  And you felt for them, because what hit me was, these women, nothing is going good in their lives, but now they have got a hero. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  They‘ve got this woman.

EASTWOOD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And then you have got Morgan Freeman saying...

EASTWOOD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I guess there are a lot of people more Irish than we thought when they went to Berlin. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes, or people who want to be, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Or people who want to be.

EASTWOOD:  Yes.  Yes.  Yes. 

Yes, well, with Saint Patrick‘s Day coming up here...

MATTHEWS:  Two days off.

EASTWOOD:  ... there‘s a lot of people who will be Irish for the day there. 

MATTHEWS:  Frankie Dunn, Maggie Fitzgerald, Harry Callahan, a lot of strong tradition there. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes.  A lot of Irish...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are you Irish? 

EASTWOOD:  I‘m Scots and Irish and English. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s mostly what I am.  I‘m Irish and English. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that Irish thing is a big part of this movie? 

It seemed to be the way it was telling the story. 

EASTWOOD:  Well, I think the story would have gone fine without it, but I think it did give it a certain—it gave it a certain—a personal aspect to it. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know, when she was biting her tongue and trying to bleed to death, trying to choke to death, that horrible scene, where she had given up and—it reminded me of the Irish people who—the hunger strikes, the ones who had gone hungry in prison, tried to kill themselves.  It just struck me very tribally that way. 

EASTWOOD:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you think that when you did it? 

EASTWOOD:  Well, I didn‘t think—no, I didn‘t make that analogy at that time.  But I can see—yes, I can see that. 

MATTHEWS:  Is the cowboy American spirit still alive?  Can you still live your dream in this country?  

EASTWOOD:  You know, I think you can if you want to.  And, no, cowboy movies are not the vogue right now, because you always have to put a vogue in moviemaking.  But I think they would be if somebody came along with an interesting story, an interesting idea.  I think there‘s still that adventuresome spirit in this country, if you want to reach for it. 

MATTHEWS:  In real life, can you still make this American dream?  Can you still make the American dream? 

EASTWOOD:  Yes, I think you can. 

It gets harder and harder, because everybody is trying to figure a way not to do it.  But I think it is still can—still can happen. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Clint Eastwood. 

EASTWOOD:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  Congratulations on the Academy Award, two of them this year.  I love the movie.

EASTWOOD:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  I know you don‘t do this very often, hardly ever. 

Anyway, tomorrow on HARDBALL, he secretly taped President Bush and now he‘s breaking his silence on a HARDBALL exclusive.  Doug Wead is going to join us on HARDBALL tomorrow night.  Also tomorrow, the battle over same-sex marriage.  On Monday, a San Francisco judge ruled that a ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional in California.  We‘ll have an exclusive interview with the man who started it all, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. 

Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.

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